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Neurasthenia in the life and work of Leonid Andreev

By the first decade of the twentieth century, Russia was experiencing a decadent period of cultural degeneration. Simultaneous with this artistic response, science was developing ways to identify medical conditions that supposedly reflected the health of the entire nation. Leonid Andreev (1871–1919), the leading literary figure of his time, stepped into the breech of this scientific discourse with literary works about degenerates. The spirited social debates on mental illness, morality and sexual deviance which resulted from these works became part of the ongoing battle over the definition and depiction of the irrational, complicated by Andreev’s own publicized bouts with neurasthenia. Specific to the study is the way in which Andreev readily accepted and incorporated scientific conjecture into his cultural production and how these works were in turn cited by medical authorities as confirmation of their theories, creating a circular argument. This book demonstrates the implications of scientific discourse on Russian concepts of mental illness and national health. It examines the concept of pathology in Russia, the influence of European medical discourse, the development of Russian psychiatry, and the role that it had on popular culture by investigating the life and works of Andreev. Although widely discussed in its European context, degeneration theory has not been afforded the same scholarly attention in Russian cultural studies. As a result, this study extends and challenges scholarship on the Russian fin de siècle, the emergence of psychiatry as a new medical science, and the role that art played in the development of this objective science.

European women’s mental health and addiction in the late nineteenth century
Indrani Sen

, including colonial medical writings, sought to project the white woman’s vulnerability to specific mental health problems. My aim here is to examine the constructions of female vulnerability in order to probe the significance of their underlying gender politics. In the course of this chapter I concentrate on ‘common’ mental problems, including ‘neurasthenia’ among middle

in Gendered transactions
Frederick H. White

characterizations of mental illness as a distinctive type of reaction to undesirable behavior. Allan Horwitz1 In order to understand Andreev’s illness experience, we must first gain insights into what it meant to be an acute neurasthenic in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. Medical science believed that neurasthenia was just one of the early indications of a much larger problem negatively impacting civilized society. This new science was concerned with degeneration theory, which argued that if a species could evolve, then it could also devolve. Simply stated

in Degeneration, decadence and disease in the Russian fin de siècle
Abstract only
Frederick H. White

unanswered by scholars. Although there will always be differing opinions, Andreev’s experience with neurasthenia (specifically depression and anxiety) offers keys to understanding his personal life (drinking binges, mood swings, romantic endeavors) and literary themes (performance, institutional spaces, illness narrative). In so doing, I have attempted to show how this might then alter our understanding of Andreev’s literary allegiances (realist or symbolist), how his literary works interacted with the popular science of the day (degeneration theory) and why this

in Degeneration, decadence and disease in the Russian fin de siècle
Abstract only
Frederick H. White

diagnosed as an acute neurasthenic and struggled with various illnesses. He gained a reputation in the popular press for being mentally imbalanced, and a recurring theme of psychopathology in his creative works seemed to support this contention. Although Andreev publicly defended his mental health, he could not escape the popular discourse that constantly conflated his life and literary works. In fact, Andreev’s personal struggle with neurasthenia2 gave him a unique perspective on the discourse of degeneration theory, which was prevalent in contemporary Russian culture

in Degeneration, decadence and disease in the Russian fin de siècle
Abstract only
Frederick H. White

concentrates on the author’s Finnish diary, where the illness experience is once again at the fore, as well as Andreev’s own pursuit of treatment. As noted at the beginning of this study, if we examine Andreev’s narrative of illness from adolescent diary, through his literary works, to his final Finnish entries, we gain perspective on how neurasthenia influenced the author’s life and works. Panpsyche theater Andreev first published ‘A letter on the Theater’ in the March 1912 issue of the journal Masks (Maski). This letter was republished with a second letter in 1914 as

in Degeneration, decadence and disease in the Russian fin de siècle
The Fowlers and modern brain disorder
Kristine Swenson

-improvement through phrenological self-knowledge. The Fowlers’ ‘nonintellectualist’ and ‘healthean’  9 brand of phrenology enabled a populist response to perceptions of ‘epidemic’ health issues and, in particular, to what mainstream medicine considered largely innate and untreatable conditions. It was working-class Victorians who bore the brunt of widespread cultural fears of degeneration and race suicide, while the middle classes were increasingly diagnosed with the ‘modern’ illnesses of neurasthenia and dyspepsia. The Lamarckism

in Progress and pathology
Open Access (free)
Melissa Dickson, Emilie Taylor-Brown, and Sally Shuttleworth

Nervous exhaustion, wrote the New York physician and early neurologist George Miller Beard in 1881, is ‘a result and accompaniment and barometer of civilisation’. 1 Throughout his study, American Nervousness , Beard was very explicit in drawing out the relationship between the new technologies, work, and education patterns of a modernising, industrialising society, and the nervous exhaustion, or what he called neurasthenia, of its subjects. The human nervous system had been held culpable for a

in Progress and pathology
Fatigue and the fin de siècle
Steffan Blayney

pathological exhaustion with which historians of medicine and fin-de-siècle culture are most familiar is neurasthenia. Introduced into the medical vocabulary by the American physician George Miller Beard in 1869, the diagnosis gained widespread currency internationally from the late 1870s. 32 Translated by Beard as ‘nervous exhaustion’, neurasthenia referred to a syndrome consisting of a wide range of symptoms, but defined most prominently and consistently by chronic fatigue. Characterised as a specifically modern (and for

in Progress and pathology
Abstract only
Deviant psychology in Kenya Colony
Will Jackson

yoked together citizens with subjects, colonisers with colonised. For an ideology and an enterprise founded on difference, the prospect of its dissolution was anathema and it informed much subsequent writing in the psychological vein. 17 Colonial complaints From the early years of the twentieth century through to the later 1930s, tropical neurasthenia was the medical term most

in Madness and marginality